City considers solution to traffic jams at Beaufort Elementary School

The city of Beaufort is considering a solution to twice-a-day traffic jams around Beaufort Elementary School, where driveways and streets are blocked for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

The issue came to light in the fall when traffic increased, partly because Beaufort Elementary is a choice school, which means children are coming from beyond the school's designated attendance area and more parents are driving them, according to officials.

City officials have spoken with school officials, neighboring residents, the S.C. Department of Transportation and other involved parties, city manager Scott Dadson said.

The city's proposal would make Pilot Street one-way headed south, so drivers would not clog North Street trying to get on Pilot, according to city planner Libby Anderson.

"Making Pilot one-way south would substantially eliminate those problems," she said.

In addition, the Prince Street exit from the rear parking lot could become right-turn only, she said.

"If you've got one person trying to make a left turn out of there, they can't do it, and basically seal off the lot," Anderson said.

City Councilman George O'Kelley Jr., who lives on North Street by the school, was concerned the one-way street would only push the traffic jam down to Glebe Street. "But it would at least give one more block to absorb that," he said.

Pilot Street is owned by the state, as are most city roads, so the DOT would need to sign off on the changes. Anderson said the DOT's initial response was for the city to take ownership of the street, which is the typical response the city receives when it asks to make road changes or add on-street parking.

Councilman Mike Sutton said the city should push back and ask the DOT to allow the changes without the ownership change. If not, he said the city should put up directional signs as needed, with or without DOT permission.

"Damn the torpedoes," he said. "If we need signs, we'll put signs up. If they take them down, we'll put more signs up."

A trial period could be done to see how much the new traffic patterns would help.

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